May 052008
Authors: Cece Wildeman

A team of mechanical engineering students took first place in the Human Powered Vehicle utility competition for the third year in a row on April 18 at a national competition at the University of Nevada-Reno.

The seven students making up the team designed the vehicle as a project for their senior capstone course. The vehicle, a tricycle, is designed for use in everyday activities, such as commuting to and from the grocery store. The tricycle is suited with a chair-like seat, pedals placed in front of the rider and canvas bags positioned behind the seat.

Aside from the utility competition, there was a single-rider competition and multi-rider competition.

Twenty-four teams entered the event.

CSU competed against seven other western universities in the utility competition. In order to be judged, the vehicles were put through an obstacle course consisting of a hairpin turn, a slalom with road cones and speed bumps. Throughout the obstacle course race, the bike was judged on design, safety and performance.

Steve Verderaime, a senior mechanical engineering major and group member, said the course was intense, but the vehicle was designed for that kind of course so it did well.

The group was given $2,000 from the Department of Mechanical Engineering to complete the project. Many parts for the vehicle were donated by local bike shops, said Steve Schaeffer, the group’s adviser.

The group has been designing and building the vehicle since August and spent a month testing and tweaking it. Verderaime said it ran better than expected, only needing some slight steering adjustments.

“The biggest challenge was working with the design team to collaborate all the efforts, but that was the most rewarding as well,” Verderaime said.

Kyle Frerichs, a senior mechanical engineering major and group member, said deciding on a design was difficult as well as certain parts of manufacturing the vehicle.

“Welding the vehicle was one of the more difficult parts because none of us had ever done it before,” he said.

Schaeffer said he would like to stick with the same basic design for next year’s vehicle, but add more safety features and make the vehicle lighter by using cast aluminum components.

Other areas of the event included a single-rider competition, a multi-rider competition and the utility competition.

Through the project, Verderaime said the group was able to experience mechanical engineering firsthand, as well as learn to work as a team.

“The best experience was working with a team,” he said. “It was the closest to a design project you can get until you get into the field.”

Senior Reporter Cece Wildeman can be reached at

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